Pope & Bishop

Pope’s Radio 4 ‘Thought for the Day’
A pre-recorded Christmas message from the Pope has been broadcast on Thought for the Day, on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

It was the first time he had spoken on the programme and his appearance, on 24 December, had involved months of negotiation by the BBC.

Below is the full transcript of his message.

Pope Benedict XVI

Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.

They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place – he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself.

As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down; he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy season.

I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time.

I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.

I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.

May God bless all of you.

Urbi et Orbi: Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Message 2010

What does Urbi et Orbi mean? Translated, it’s “for the city and for the world” and is a papal address and Apostolic Blessing not only for the city of Rome but for the entire world. The blessing is given at Christmas and Easter and is broadcast throughout the world by the European Broadcasting Union.

In this year’s message, the Holy Father reflects on our hearts seeking a truth in Christ that is love: “Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence.”

Full Text
“Verbum caro factum est” – “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14)

Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; he came to dwell among us. God is not distant: he is “Emmanuel”, God-with-us. He is no stranger: he has a face, the face of Jesus.

This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope. First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth! Being in his presence, observing his works and hearing his words, they recognized in Jesus the Messiah; and seeing him risen, after his crucifixion, they were certain that he was true man and true God, the only-begotten Son come from the Father, full of grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:14).

“The Word became flesh”. Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love. Those who love desire to share with the beloved, they want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great love story of God for his people which culminated in Jesus Christ.

God in fact does not change: he is faithful to himself. He who created the world is the same one who called Abraham and revealed his name to Moses: “I am who I am … the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … a God merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (cf. Ex 3:14-15; 34:6). God does not change; he is Love, ever and always. In himself he is communion, unity in Trinity, and all his words and works are directed to communion. The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary by the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit, creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space.

“The Word became flesh”. The light of this truth is revealed to those who receive it in faith, for it is a mystery of love. Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history. In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Saviour. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the “yes” of our hearts.

And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence.

“The Word became flesh”. The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. “Emmanuel”, God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbour, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the one born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.

May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of “God-with-us” grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all.

Dear brothers and sisters, “the Word became flesh”; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem! To everyone, a Merry Christmas!

Visit this Link to Listen to the Message

The Most Revd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster said tonight that Christian faith gives society the means to act together for the common good. Giving the Reflection during ‘A Christmas Celebration’, an annual programme of Christmas carols and music at Westminster Cathedral, he said the current crises facing society make it difficult to carry on with ‘business as usual’. Religious truth has a resilience which can help sustain society and allows people to “act together, consistently, in community for the common good”.

Archbishop Nichols said the Christmas message is one that emphasises the need to give a priority to serve other, especially those who are vulnerable and dependent.

Archbishop Nichols said the Christmas message is one that emphasises the need to give a priority to serve other, especially those who are vulnerable and dependent.
The full text of Archbishop of Westminster’s Reflection at ‘A Christmas Celebration’ follows:
‘O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.’

These are the words of a special anthem for this evening in the Prayer of the Church. They add to the beauty of our evening celebration. But they also raise a question.

As we enjoy the splendour of this celebration, do we think of ourselves among those who sit ‘in darkness’? It doesn’t seem too appropriate, really!

Yet there is a sobering thought that will not leave us. It will return the minute we step outside this Cathedral: our society is experiencing some hard times. And during them some are being hurt, and some are angry, as we have already seen.

So as we absorb this Christmas message, as we proclaim that the ‘Rising Sun is the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice’, we must reflect on how we are responding. As a society we are, more often than not, capable of great generosity in the face of adversity. Every disaster illustrates this. Charity appeals are met with generosity. When hardship is before our eyes, a sense of solidarity will emerge. This is surely one of our sources of hope.

But it is difficult to sustain. In an emergency, we trust that life will quickly get back to normal so that we can each resume our customary patterns and get back to our own business.  But what if this ‘emergency’ lasts? What if it becomes a lasting reality? Do we, then, simply turn back to our own and turn our backs on those in need? Or does the very nature of ‘our own business’ actually change?

In facing this challenge, the truth we proclaim this evening has something to say. Religious truth may not be particularly popular at the moment and easily mocked. Yet it has resilience. Our Christmas story is being told and retold at this time, in the half remembered words of the carols, in many homes as families set up a crib or display their Christmas cards. It is sung and celebrated in churches up and down the land. And it contains a message which is immediately relevant to the times we are facing.

The figures in the crib form a community. They come together in adversity and are there for each other. At their centre is the most vulnerable of their number: the child Jesus. Even the natural world, in the shape of ox and ass, seems to play its part.

At the heart of this story is a revelation of something crucially important about our nature. In contrast to a prevailing culture, here we learn that we are made for each other, that we belong together. In contrast to the view that puts the individual first, constantly emphasising the importance of individual needs and rights, and well practised in the culture of blame, this story tutors us in the priority we are to give to each other and to our common good. Here the call to community is the fundamental good, and not seen as a necessary constraint on individual freedom. Here fulfilment is found in the service of others, rather than in the pursuit of self-interest, especially the service of those who are vulnerable and dependent.

The true impact of this story and the truth it conveys are only fully grasped if its deeper religious truth is also remembered. Here, in the manger, is a child who is not just caught in poverty and so attracting our sympathy; here is a child who will not just grow into a preacher of extraordinary power and gain our admiration; here, rather, is a human being who is also and totally God. This truth, the truth of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, raises the lessons of the crib to a new and transforming height. The child, in his birth, and the man in his teaching, his death and his resurrection, is proclaiming the truth about us with all the authority that is of God. It is the ultimate authority, for God is the ultimate author of life.

Here we come to sources of strength and inspiration whatever we face. Here, in the presence of the Christ, we are not only taught about our solidarity with one another but we are also given the where-with-all, the grace, to sustain that solidarity even in the most taxing of times.

Faith has an important contribution to make. This Christian faith not only makes clear the challenge facing us – to act together, consistently, in community for the common good – but also gives us the means to sustain that effort through a power that is not our own. Rather that power, that grace of God, comes to us always as a gift of love that is for our good. We come to Christ to receive that love. We open our hearts that it may fill them. Then we know how we must act in our world today.

We wish each other a very happy and holy Christmas. I willingly do so this evening, to you all.

May God bless you this night and in this coming feast. Amen.


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